The Thistle

Dan Herron & The Bloomington Project: Alumni Spotlight

After college, Dan Herron (MDiv ’11) went on staff with Great Commission Ministries (GCM) at the University of Illinois for five years. When it became clear that a lifetime of vocational ministry lay ahead, he pursued and eventually finished his Master of Divinity atCovenant Theological Seminary. He was approved for a church-planting position and is now working in tandem with another Covenant Seminary graduate, Brad Tubbesing (MDiv ’07), who is starting an RUF at Indiana University. MNA and RUM have done other such dual-plants, such as with Bart Moseman (MDiv ‘00) at City Life Church and Chad Brewer (MDiv ’00) at the University of Minnesota, in the Twin City region. 

Dan, thank you for telling me about your new work. Did I get the background and introduction right? 

Mostly. After I graduated, Erica and I got married one week later. We moved to St. Louis (the first time) so Erica could do grad school at Washington University. I taught high school at Hazelwood East. That first summer, I did a summer project with Great Commission Ministries in Estes Park, CO in 2001. We went on staff with GCM in 2002. Now we’re involved in a dual plant—RUF and PCA church—in the Bloomington, IN area.
How do “dual-plant” situations come together?
In 2005, RUM began developing a new vision in cooperation with MNA and the Presbyteries. There are areas of the US that have very little gospel impact and very little PCA presence. This is found particularly in the University cities of the Big Ten, the NE, and the West. So, former RUF campus ministers have been found to be well-equipped to plant in these contexts. The vision is to take a seasoned campus minister and partner him with a current RUF campus minister to start a new church and campus ministry at the same time. Sweet vision.
So how did you get connected with that vision & opportunity?
In March of last year, Rod Mays and I got connected. He had been in contact with the Central Indiana Presbytery (CIP) about their desire to plant a church and start an RUF at Indiana University (IU). Rod connected me with Scott Dean, the MNA committee chair of the CIP, and Erica and I and the committee began developing a relationship. Part of this process included further training in church planting, developing vision and strategy for Bloomington, and raising a ministry partnership team for prayer and financial support. This is where my attention has been focused this spring.
There is also an RUF campus minister, Brad Tubbesing, and his family who have been called by the CIP to join us. He and I have been in the process of developing a relationship for the past several months as well. So, I am the church planter for what we’re currently calling “The Bloomington Project.” We have a website with more of the story of our vision and heart for this ministry:
What is the symbiotic relationship between the two ministries, besides the fact that they are both PCA? 
The vision is to reach the University-city of Bloomington, IN. This includes the community, but ostensibly means a focus on the university itself. Not just the students, but also the faculty and administration. In order to effectively pursue a goal such as this, RUF and the actual church plant need to work together in the relationship they were meant to have.RUF is an arm of the church, it is not the church. So, not only do students need a solid church home where they can be discipled and provided boundaries, have opportunities to serve, fail, and grow; they also need the input of older Christians. And, these older, more “mature” Christians need the vitality, energy, and zealous vision for world transformation through the power of the gospel that often times arises within the culture of RUF’s ministries.Brad will not be launching the RUF right away. The vision is for both of our families to move there this summer together, and focus on connecting with people in the community, even while our families’ relationships strengthen. Brad will then partner with me developing a core group of community people who will then be key in launching public worship in Fall of 2013. It won’t be until Spring 2013 that Brad will begin transitioning to a greater focus on university students specifically.Even then, we foresee there being great overlap in our involvement in each other’s’ ministries. I will seek to have time available to spend with students from time to time, and will even take a grad class or two. And, he and Caroline will be relationally involved in the life of the church, and seek to serve alongside of their students within the church, and connect them to community members for lifestyle discipleship.The school, Indiana University, has a history of famous graduates—like Robert Gates (Current Secretary of Defense) and academicians from Tibet, Turkey, and others. Do you and the RUF minister have a vision for the type of people you will seek to reach first—the “low hanging fruit” as it were? 
Well, first, from what we know so far, there doesn’t seem to really be any “low hanging fruit” in Bloomington. Less than 10% of the population is considered members of an “evangelical church,” and at least a quarter of those people go to churches that don’t have Christ-Centered preaching of grace. Also, many people in this context are a mix of secular with a twist of individualistic spirituality. Add a strong dose of high distrust of evangelical Christianity, and you get a fairly hostile response to “traditional” outreach and evangelism practices which generally presume some sort of Christian heritage or familiarity with religious jargon.All this to say, the people we’ll seek out first fall into two broad categories: 1) Christians longing and thirsty for Christ-centered preaching, worship, discipleship, and mission; and, 2) people who long for and display a search for meaning, goodness, truth, and beauty—this search is an aspect of (even the fallen) imago Dei, and thus display God’s common grace and the semen religionis implanted in their lives.How will this play out with specific people groups? Well, currently I’ve been dialoguing with people ranging from punk-rock band members, a grad student in painting, classical musicians, students and community members in the IU Secular Alliance, a high-tech entrepreneur with a young family, a judge, civil service workers, bicycle racers, the owner of a “hippy café,” PhD students in Political Science and English Lit., a sales rep… The diversity of contacts is already staggering. And, because of the diversity in the design of the core men, women, and kids God has stirred up to join us, it seems like we’re being positioned to potentially have a very eclectic group.We do recognize the “strategic” importance of Indiana University both regionally and globally. This engagement with the academy and her members also forms part of our longterm vision, suits my passion for both pastoral ministry and scholarship, and fulfills the church’s calling to serve as, in what James Davison Hunter calls, a “faithful presence” among one of the least reached and influential people-groups in our midst: the culture-shaping university “elite.”The website for The Bloomington Project can be found at: A brochure providing an overview of this MNA / RUF dual-plant can be downloaded here.